Should you switch your LMS provider?

13 September 2019 by Andrew McMonagle

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are big business, estimated at a £4bn sector and still growing.  The range of options is impressive, if not bewildering.

Yet, with so much to choose from and increasing investment in the LMS, why does Brandon Hall report (Learning Management Tech, 2018) that a mere 9% of organisations are completely satisfied with their current LMS? And, if you’re one of those not happy with your LMS, what should you do about it?

Reasons not to be cheerful

The Brandon Hall survey also reports that around a third of organisations actively want to replace their current LMS and 45% within the next year.  So, why the dissatisfaction?

The obvious reasons are that the current LMS isn’t fit for purpose, the promises made by the supplier didn’t materialise and it’s no longer (or never was) right for the organisation.  Some common complaints include businesses being locked into deals that are inflexible and fixed term. The ROI wasn’t what was promised. New features you need come with a hefty extra cost.  Support isn’t at the level it’s supposed to be and again incurs additional outlay. And, also, the plain and simple fact that once the deal has been done and the sale made, the provider lets the customer down.

All these are common pitfalls with any product for any business.  But with a buoyant LMS market, it needn’t be that way. There’s choice and opportunity to find that right LMS for your organisation.  The question is now you’re looking for change, how do you decide what’s right for you?

What you don’t want is to be in the position of swapping providers every couple of years, with all the additional costs and headaches that involves.  We can give you some help here with a short checklist of what to look for and what to avoid and to make the right choice, not simply for the moment but for the medium and longer term.

Doing your homework

As LMS’s develop and incorporate newer technology (AI, for example) they can offer more and more features.  It’s easy to be impressed by what’s on offer in a new LMS compared to your existing platform.  So, you need to do your homework to figure out exactly what you do – and don’t – need.

But the homework is not simply about comparing specs of competing LMS platforms.  It’s more about determining what you need as organisation – emphasising the ‘home’ bit of homework.

You need to analyse what’s worked and what hasn’t from your current LMS.  Not just in terms of features, but in how it’s met or hasn’t met your business and learning needs.  Focus on the outcomes first, not the means to achieve them.

Clearly outline your business goals.  From there create a learning strategy.  Figure out where the focus of that strategy rests.  Is there a problem with attrition? Does Sales require intervention and remediation?  Is there an issue with the Leadership pipeline?

You need to ask these questions and sketch out the answers before engaging with any potential LMS supplier.  The relationship you build with your LMS provider is as important as the technical capability of the product and doing due diligence to your own business needs is the start.

Ignore the bells and whistles

Obviously with any new product you’re looking for improved functionality and new features, but they’re only relevant if they can be used and they can do a job for the organisation and its employees.  Paying for unused and unusable functionality will be just another cause of future frustration.

Clearly L&D will have a key role in determining the LMS that fits the business.  But there are other key stakeholders too: from IT who have the job of implementing the platform; to managers who’ll want to check progress; and to the learners themselves who’ll want a system that provides what they need when they need it.

And for the end-users there may be different, competing priorities with Leadership needing resources and peer-to-peer interaction, Marketing wanting strong branding, Sales focussing on performance and numbers and Compliance concentrating on granularity to ensure the correct behaviours and regulations are fully observed.

A system that can’t deliver on those fundamental requirements won’t be suitable regardless of all its attractive new features.

Don’t be constrained

When you’re figuring out what you need, you’ll have to project forward, considering roadmaps and likely future demands.  This is an inexact business, and any number of factors, internal and external, may cause you to review. So, any LMS platform and provider you choose will need to offer flexibility and adaptability.  Your LMS should grow and evolve as your organisation does, not hem you in.

From a technical and implementation point of view, you’ll need an LMS that is highly customisable in terms of content selection, adding new resources, updating branding, and enhancing and adapting functionality.  It needs to be scalable so you can add new learners, content and geographies. It must integrate seamlessly with new and existing IT systems. It should also run across platforms and devices. Remember the new locus of learning is no longer the desktop but the mobile devices that we use in and outside of work.

From an overall business perspective, costs need to be controlled so you only pay for what you’re currently using.  Upgrades should be factored in and not costly add-ons. The LMS provider’s roadmap needs to dovetail with your organisation’s own.

The ultimate test of the need for flexibility comes when you have to change your mind. You don’t want to throw out one system and replace it with another with every business challenge or re-org.  Adopt a relationship with your provider that recognises periodic need for change and offers you the technical tools and customer support to move the relationship in a different direction as circumstances change.

The relationship is key

The business relationship you have with your LMS provider needs to concentrate on collaboration, rather than rigid, one-directional supply and demand.  It’s not just about what the product offers, but the way it can adapt. Can a company’s frustration around the lack of engagement with their LMS be solved by adding in an LXP (but continuing to use the LMS to drive offline learning and compliance)? And/or rather than simply replacing one LMS with another, is now the time to consider switching to an LXP?

With your provider you need a partnership that prioritises scalability and is ever flexible and adaptable, not set in a fixed moment.  It’s not about a single solution, but about a way of working that evolves as your organisation evolves. It avoids breakdowns and fosters a growing understanding of the organisation’s needs as it moves forward.  You’re both driving, in tandem, towards the same goals.

Switching to Totara Learn

Totara Learn is a customised distribution of Moodle, the world’s favourite LMS.  Learning Pool’s award-winning implementation of the Totara open-source LMS platform provides a system to meet your learning needs and offers a business relationship that’s there for the long haul.

Totara Learn offers the ability to create learning plans tailored to your learners’ needs.  Programmes cover everything from initial onboarding to Leadership training with blended-learning programmes that include e-learning, face-to-face training and key learning resources all readily accessible across platforms, devices and locations.  SAML2 authentication method allows you to configure for Single Sign-On (SSO) enabling users to seamlessly login to the LMS.

Course completion for compliance is  tracked with certifications. The use of open badges formally acknowledges learner attainment and course completion and allows learners to use and share them across the organisation.  The system comes with powerful reporting tools that allow management to see what’s working and what isn’t, tracking skills and competencies. The reports can be tailored to reflect business hierarchies and help manage teams in disparate locations.

Appraisals allows you to review employees past performance while also recognising their achievements and setting objectives and goals for their future development.

The 360 feedback & Goals functionality can be used to increase engagement and allow employees to receive performance feedback from their manager, peers and co-workers.’ – Feel free to change any of this.

Above all Totara Learn delivers technical flexibility.  It offers multiple language support for your global reach.  Look and feel and content can be easily customised. It accommodates rebranding.  The open-source model allows for regular upgrades and immediate access to the benefits of the wider Totara Community.

But beyond this impressive range of technical function and features, with Totara Learn you also get the considerable business benefits of working in collaboration with one of Totara’s Platinum Partners.  Totara Learn is currently being used by organisations like Tesco, Vodafone, McDonalds and Sony.

It comes with no vendor lock in, but with an active support network and a highly ambitious and robust innovation roadmap which allows you to see where you can be as the partnership develops.

With Learning Pool you’ll find a highly experienced Totara partner that shares your values and understands your needs as the evolve.  We’ll make use of our considerable experience and expertise to work with you to drive your business forward offering you the latest versions so that you grow as we grow.  And as other businesses continue to come on board, you can be assured that you’re with the right partner.

So why not make the switch?

Andrew McMonagle
Product Manager

Since joining Learning Pool, Andrew has worked in the Customer Success Team, Project Delivery and is currently a member of our Product Management Team.

Andrew mainly works with our LMS and has worked with the likes of Tesco and the Football Association on the LMS implementations.

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